Initiative offers bright ideas about dimming


A major industrywide educational campaign is underway to bring dimming out of theatres and into architectural applications on a national scale.

Dimming offers designers a chance to combine the practical (adjusting the light level to match the task while saving energy) with the artistic (creating an environment that is soothing, warm, and inviting). An incandescent lamp source has typically been used for most dimming applications, or designers have utilized control systems to turn off fixtures, thereby decreasing the total amount of light in a specific area.

Not many designers, however, have experienced a system using fluorescent lamps. Even fewer have experienced a system with a dimming range of 100% to 10%, that works well enough to remain in service without being retrofitted. The increased use of T-8, T-5, and especially compact fluorescent lamps, along with electronic ballasts, has broadened the range of dimming possibilities for LDs.

The National Dimming Initiative (NDI), comprised of leading elec-trical control and ballast manufac-turers, seeks to simplify the lighting control component selection process and to increase awareness of the benefits of lighting controls. While well-versed in other applications, for example, LDs are less informed about the role of effective dimming for office environments, both to allow for the use of daylight and to accommodate high-intensity computer usage.

From a financial perspective, increased use of dimming and associated control systems has been shown to save money based on less electricity consumed for lighting and the necessary air-conditioning to cool the higher light levels. NDI members have the technical information and the formulas to prove very favorable payback periods and substantial cost savings.

Providing information that incorporates material from system manufacturers has been addressed by the NDI's education program. The focal point is the release of an application CD-ROM, to be widely distributed to LDs and others involved in the design of lighting systems for non-theatrical applications. Features include system benefits, case histories, manufacturer spec sheets, information on component selection, and website links.

Advance Transformer Co. has funded the NDI from its inception earlier this year. At a recent meeting of the New York section of the Illuminating Engineering Society that reviewed dimming and other control systems, Steve Purdy, the company's director of specification sales, noted, "We are completing the formation of an organization, and it's our intention to transfer the NDI to this group. This way, the organization will maintain the Initiative and continue the educational outreach programs." Charter members of the NDI are Advance Transformer Co., ALM Systems, AMX Corp., Avab America, Clanton Engineering, Douglas Lighting Controls, GE Total Lighting Controls, Horton Controls, Hunt Dimming, Johnson Controls, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lehigh Electrical Products, Leviton Manufacturing Co., Lightolier Controls, Lithonia Lighting, Marlin Controls, Novitas, PCI Lighting Controls, Sensor Switch, Sterner Controls, Vara-Light, and The Watt Stopper.

Meetings have been scheduled for different regions of the US to inform the design community about the many options available. For more information on the National Dimming Initiative, or to obtain the free lighting controls application CD-ROM, contact NDI coordinator Steve Purdy by phone at 847/390-5136, by fax at 847/390-5132, or go to the NDI website at